Reaching the Cusp of Digital Dentistry

Monday, December 4, 2017

A look at the innovations and trends on display at the 2017 Greater New York Dental Meeting

Reaching the Cusp of Digital Dentistry

There was plenty of traffic and energy in the Javits Center Exhibition Hall during the recent Greater New York Dental Meeting where the industry’s most recent innovations were on display.

The number of CAD/CAM technologies and digital workflows continues its rapid expansion with just about any booth likely to be hosting a scanner, mill, 3D printer or some other material or device designed to work with those technologies. With so many options and approaches to going digital, the meeting showed an industry pushing toward a new, digital norm.

With inventive software and services, as well as numerous product launches vying for attention, there was plenty to be excited about. Here’s a look at some of the event’s new and updated products and the trends they display.

A Full Range of Scanning Options

TRIOS and Viz Scanners

Digital impression systems are the starting point for chairside CAD/CAM and there are more options here than ever before. New lower cost options are showing up, and established systems continue to evolve with new features to make them suitable for use with just about every patient and for every case.

With so many scanners with so many capabilities at such a wide range of prices now available, there’s plenty to consider when taking that first digital step, but it’s also easier than ever to test drive the scanners to find the best fit for your practice. Distribution deals for scanners are becoming more common, and while in the past it was rare to find more than one scanner at booth, the big distributors such as Henry Schein, Patterson and Benco all feature several scanners in the same place. It’s both fun and informative to use several different scanners one after the other to really get a sense for how they work, and what options feel best for you.

New developments in scanners include the fast, slick and wireless TRIOS 3 adding the ability to capture Patient Specific Motion that can be used to indicate where teeth grinding is occurring. The scanner’s software also added an orthodontic Treatment Simulator and the company began selling their implant scan bodies.

New on the scanner scene is a more entry-level option, the VIZ from Adin Digital. With its economical price point, this system is ideal for crown and small bridge cases. Using contrast powder, it captures monochromatic digital impressions that can be easily sent to a lab for design and fabrication.

New Open CAD/CAM Solutions and DGSHAPE d-CLINIC

The expanded choices for chairside CAD/CAM expand beyond the new scanners, as new production workflows and systems were on display in New York. The system from Glidewell Dental and the DGSHAPE d-CLINIC CAD/CAM solution from Roland DGA each represent a new approach to chairside restoration production. Built around the nature of open technologies that can connect components from different manufacturers via standardized file formats, both systems point to the future where it will be easier to add new production systems, and connect different technologies to unlock new digital treatment options.

The Glidewell system starts with Align Technology’s iTero Element scanner that is certified to connect to the Solution. From there, the clinician using the system has a wide range of options. Scans can be designed chairside via the software which bases restoration design suggestions on data derived from the millions of digital cases completed at Glidewell Laboratories. They can then be milled on the with the choice of four materials. The novelty of the system is the connection back to Glidewell itself. At any time a case can be sent to the lab for optimization or customer support, or it can be sent to be completed at the lab, expanding the options and convenience for dental practices.

Roland DGA’s new approach is a phase 2 system for clinicians who have a scanner and are ready to get into chairside production. The open system is designed to accept standard STL files with its software, which is used to design restorations for production on the company’s DWX-4W mill. Roland’s mills are among the most popular benchtop mills in dental labs, and this brings them and their highly precise milling capabilities chairside.

Tracking Progress in 3D

Leonardo trainer and Philips Sonicare Flexcare Platinum Connected

New dental technology isn’t limited to the CAD/CAM realm as other innovations involving real-time dental procedure tracking and guidance also stood out. Facial Imaging Mobile debuted their 3D Dentistry on Demand service that brings a surgical navigation system to dental practices for use during implant surgeries. Also monitoring procedures, albeit training exercises, is the Leonardo dental simulator from Geotar RND. Patients weren’t left out either, as the latest version of the popular Philips Sonicare brush offers more sensors for better guidance.

The new offering from Facial Imaging Mobile brings both a new technological approach, as well as a new service approach to the industry. For now 3D Dentistry on Demand is only available in the Northeast United States, as the service is an extension of FIM’s on site CBCT services. With those services they bring a CBCT system where it is needed to capture 3D images for practices without an onsite cone beam. The new 3D Dentistry on Demand takes this concept a few steps farther by bringing not just the CBCT and treatment planning to the practice, but also bringing a cutting-edge surgical navigation system on site.

Using data from the cone beam image and the digital treatment plan, the navigation technology tracks the position of the drill to provide real-time feedback on position, angle and depth. The system works like a surgical GPS providing easy to understand visual cues to help the dentist stay on target when placing the implant according to the treatment plan.

The technology is impressive, but rather than sell it to practices, FIM is opting to bring it to them for use on individual surgical cases. This will allow practices to access the technology when needed with no up front investment. Clinicians who want to use it full time will be able to purchase the guidance system. However, the mobile technology approach means any practice on the Eastern Seaboard can offer 3D surgical navigation as needed.

Less innovative, but no less interesting, the Leonardo pairs a dental training model with a specialized tracking system that monitors every handpiece movement, and every detail of treatment training session. The real-time tracking records every movement and the custom software provides 3D animations of the procedures so performance can be reviewed and analyzed from a range of perspectives. Procedures can be assessed quantitatively based on the detailed positional metrics the system captures.

While Philips introduced the Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected sonic-powered toothbrush earlier in the year, the Bluetooth enabled brush continues to draw attention as a new way to help patients improve their homecare. Not only does the brush connect to a smartphone app to track brushing frequency and time, but its sensors are capable of tracking where in the mouth it’s being used to highlight spots that need more attention. It also features a pressure sensor to tell patients when they are brushing with too much force and a scrubbing sensor to help patients use the brush with optimal technique. These guided brushing technologies are another way dental technologies are getting better at helping people use them properly.

Technology such as these systems can help clinicians and patients by tracking movements and guiding towards the ideal treatments and care. This type of guided and monitored care could be a new frontier in the industry.

Digital Business Moves

New dental software and services

Software is a big part of just about any dental practice. Even if the practice isn’t designing and producing crowns via CAD/CAM, it’s probably managing its schedule and business on a computer, and now more than ever, possibly in the cloud. More software and digital services are available to dental practices than ever before, and there were definitely a few notable examples on display in New York.

MouthWatch first made a splash in the industry offering intraoral cameras in bulk and at incredibly inexpensive prices. Now the company’s TeleDent software aims to make clinical collaboration easier than ever. The HIPAA-compliant software platform allows dentists, specialists, hygienists and other health care providers to share case information and images as well as to collaborate with live video, and screen-sharing conferences. The model makes it easier for general practitioners to get all the necessary information to specialists, and then receive the case back on the same platform. This makes it simple for specialists and GPs to stay on the same page after an initial treatment. The coordinated care this leads to is more efficient for everyone involved, including the patient.

Software as a service is also the approach from Kleer, a new company looking to help dental practice reduce their reliance on insurance companies by creating sustainable and profitable patient membership programs. The cloud-based platform allows practices to choose the benefits and pricing for the membership plan. It then makes it easy for patients to sign up and for the practice to manage the plan. The Kleer dentist portal allows practices to track members, benefits and payments; as well as to invite current patients to sign up for the plan; and it even includes access to practice-marketing resources. With data showing the value of patients who have signed up for a dental practice membership, and their tendencies to say yes to treatment more often, the company is ready to convince any clinician that these types of plans can be a good idea.

Not so much software as a new service, a new branch of Henry Schein Dental is focused on helping support the business side of dental practices. Henry Schein Business Process Solutions is a service offering that helps practices understand areas for improvement and connects them with experienced consultants who can address those specific needs.

The service begins with a Comprehensive Practice Analysis that uncovers business opportunities for the practice. From there the experts analyze the practices needs, outline solutions and guide the practice through the process. Offering a comprehensive approach, the Business Process Solutions service is designed to help practices with marketing, HR, financial planning, operations, training and even IT needs.

There were many other new ideas on display at the show, as well as previously introduced innovations that keep making an impact. The one clear theme was new technologies and new approaches to using those technologies are continuing to shift the industry. While you might not have a need for every new concept on display in the exhibit hall, it’s a good idea to stay up to date on what’s available. That way, when a new innovation fits a need in your practice, you are ready to make it work for you and your patients. 

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